Machinedesign 2756 Chrisforbes Vpt Sm 0

Personalized Attention Comes to Engineering

Feb. 3, 2010
Digital tools put content from handbooks, materials property databases, standards, magazine articles, online searches, and other sources and an engineer’s fingertips.
Chris Forbes
New York, N.Y.

Who doesn’t love personalized attention? Individuality is part of our cultural DNA and is incorporated into our daily lives in a multitude of ways. When I log on to, I’m greeted with, “Hi Chris, here’s what we recommend.” As I check into Facebook, “Hi Chris, have you spoken with your old friend from University of Toronto lately?” These days, even a coffee maker can be programmed to greet you by name every morning.

Consumer products and Web sites are further along than most of their business-to-business counterparts. Think about it. When you log into a corporate database, about the best you can hope for is “Hi, User X,” but there is usually not an additional call to action. One should rightfully wonder, why not? After all, meaningfully integrating personalization into business resources can save users time and improve productivity.

These days, engineers work on more projects than ever and need a wide breadth of knowledge that must be acquired quickly to meet aggressive timelines. It’s estimated that engineers spend one quarter of their working hours dealing with external information. To truly impact an individual’s performance, organizations must dive deep and analyze how engineers find and digest relevant industry information.

Engineers are hardwired to create and repair, and the multitude of problem-solving challenges they face transforms almost daily. As such, it’s no surprise that the way they gather, store, and use crucial information is unique. Engineers frequently create a binder of go-to resources, pulling content from handbooks, materials property databases, standards, magazine articles, online searches, and other sources. This accumulated knowledge would be more useful and portable if it was interactive, digital, and available with a Web connection.

For instance, when an engineer must calculate the rotational speed of a planetary gear driver with increasing diameter of the fixed gear, poring through pages of mishmash design notes to find the appropriate equation is just not going to cut it.

But what if that same engineer has one-click access to Machinery’s Handbook & Guide at her finger tips? Now, with just a Web connection, this is possible and the problem solved.

That’s what we aim to do at Knovel. Our Web-based application lets engineers access and save validated reference content, and our personalization toolset caters to the way engineers individually bring this content into their workflow. Let’s go back to that engineer calculating the speed of a planetary gear driver. If she needs that information again, she can snip the exact page where it is addressed and save it on her Knovel “Bookshelf.” Engineers can create digital folders to save and organize titles, searches, and useful content for instant recall. This improves productivity and saves time.

Translation? That engineer who has been lugging around a monstrous binder of engineering resources since her university days can now travel lighter, and get results faster.

Knovel ( offers a Web-based application integrating technical information with analytical and search tools. It serves subscribers worldwide, including 70 Fortune 500 companies and over 400 leading technical universities.

Edited by Kenneth Korane

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